5 Trends to Consider to Make It Through Supply Chain Disruptions this Holiday Season


The holiday season is the most important sales period of the year for retailers and they appear to be stocking up.  According to a recent report by the National Retail Federation, retailer imports surged in August 2020.  There is a great deal at stake for retailers, especially considering the roller coaster ride they have experienced this year. 

Blood, sweat, and tears have likely been shed in designing, sourcing, and manufacturing products that should be in great demand this season and the IT infrastructure is in place for effective inventory management.  Unfortunately, supply chain disruptions may impact the best laid plans and latest technology. 

Stresses within the supply chain today can have real impacts on the quality of inventory arriving at ports.  These issues should warrant the attention of retailers to minimize inventory availability challenges at this critical time of year. 

Here are five trends and areas of focus for retailers to evaluate as they work to serve the demand for inventory in their retail stores and online channels for the holiday season.

Impacts of shipping delays – goods stored or shipped in less than favorable conditions can result in product integrity issues.  COVID-induced delays, increases in truck turn times, and other similar bottlenecks have slowed normal goods movement this year.  The delays, combined with fluctuating product storage conditions, can lead to the formation of mold, mildew, or odors on goods.

Retailers should regularly investigate transit time and product storage conditions.  Have transit times or storage measures changed from norms?  What type and what level of product inspections should be conducted for quality assurance purposes?

Supply chain diversification – product sourcing shifts and diversification is well-underway, especially in the apparel and footwear sectors.  Challenges can arise as retailers onboard new factories.  Working with new partners takes time as trust is built and the workforce is properly trained to make products.  Changes can lead to the potential for increased production mistakes.  With these moves, comes potential challenges that, when they arise may need to be resolved stateside after goods have arrived from overseas manufacturers. 

Quality assurance trends – monitoring of production, shipments, and storage of goods overseas is often conducted through various means that includes reliance on third parties, buyers of goods, and even remote (virtual) oversight.  Travel restrictions as a result of COVID, as well as budgets, may be impacting some as it is hard to replace the level of oversight that is sometimes needed to properly ensure goods are meeting the buyer’s quality expectations or brand reputation standards.  With fewer eyes on quality assurance, potential issues can arise when goods eventually arrive from overseas. 

As retailers reflect on the evolution of supply chain diversification and quality assurance trends, it may warrant the need for increased inbound inspection of overseas shipments for production errors or product appearance issues as a preventative measure for product quality assurance.

Mother Nature – Goods produced in regions with hot, high-humidity climates can be impacted as rainfall and temperatures fluctuate from norms in regions where goods are produced.  Similarly, post manufacturing, goods can also be impacted during the long journey to a retailer’s distribution center due to the variable conditions presented by Mother Nature during transit.

In years when Mother Nature delivers conditions outside of norms, there is increased potential for shipments to be impacted with mold formation, signs of moisture or odors.  This year, Mother Nature is delivering.  Key overseas production locations have had some of their wettest monsoon seasons in almost 30 years and in the U.S., there have been so many storms that the National Hurricane Center ran out of names this year.

Retailers should be proactive and anticipate that there may be increased observances of mold, mildew, or odor on inbound shipments.  Are inventory management systems monitoring these conditions in any way to flag inventory for potential inspection upon arrival at its destination?  These types of issues need to be observed and discovered at the retailer’s distribution center, not at the retail level in stores to protect their reputation and image.

Quality Issues and How to Fix Them?  Next Steps to Solve Product Quality Problems.

It can be a huge letdown when your team discovers that the latest critical shipment for the holiday season arrives and falls short of your product quality or appearance expectations.  However, well-established product reworks specialists serve as key resource partners to retailers to overcome quality issues by restoring merchandise to first-quality standards. 

Since many retailers and their distribution centers are often not equipped with the tools, resources, and technical know-how to undertake the repairs or corrections required on a particular shipment, many will rely on a specialized partner when the need may arise. Retailers that are proactive and cognizant of potential stress points in the supply chain will be best prepared to pivot and make quick work, or rework, of product quality issues that could surprisingly arise and impact their inventory availability at this key time of year.

Jeff Leake, business development manager for Quality Corrections & Inspections. 

Quality Corrections & Inspections is a provider of inspection, repair and reworks services to the apparel, footwear, accessories, and consumer goods sectors. The company services importers, retailers, manufacturers, distribution centers and direct-to-consumer businesses from two U.S. production locations that are within 1-2 days shipping for about any U.S. location where goods are arriving or warehoused.